Digitally enchanced location 12 courtesy Google Satellite View.
(Click image to see this area on a Google Maps satellite view which can be zoomed and scrolled.)
When we announced the results of the Xmas/New Year Competition – the area near Sierpow, a junction on the Ozorkow branch of the Kujawy Narrow Gauge Railways – we posed some questions. (See the inset text below.)
Look at the layout here as shown on the Railmap – Kolejowa Mapa Polski website. Click on the link and when the map showing Sierpow and Sierpow Waskotorowyopens click the “RM Map” button – the last but one of the six buttons on the top right of the picture.
Google Map and Railmap hybrid map.
(Click map to enlarge.)
The new map – a hybrid of the Google Maps and the Railmap mapping – shows the narrow gauge Lesmierz branch peeling off in a northbound direction and running over the route taken by the standard gauge branch, rather than peeling off in a southbound direction and running alongside the road. Is this just a mapping error, or does Railmap indicate an earlier route.
Now thanks to Inzynier and Ross we know some of the answers. It is a mapping error, the narrow gauge line to Lesmierz and beyond did peel of southwards and ran alongside the road to Lesmierz. The Railmap cartographer assumed incorrectly that the post-WWII standard gauge line to the Lesmierz sugar refinery followed the line of the older narrow gauge connection.
Sierpow, 1944 1:2500 map Wojskowy Instytut Geograficzny Map Archive
What is more, the Railmap mapping (the map can be scrolled and zoomed just like Google Maps) shows the branch running much further than Lesmierz, and then splitting into three branches terminating at Janowice, Przewiska and Jackowice Waskotorowe. I had no idea that this system ever existed. Can any reader, more studied in the intricacies of the narrow gauge lines hereabouts cast any more light on the subject.
Inzynier confirms that several other sugar refineries to the East had their lines connected to the Lesmierz system quite soon after WW II. He has written an article about the Lesmierz sugar beet lines which, when we have sorted out appropriate photographs, we hope to publish shortly.
But that is not the only mystery! Looking at the Google Maps mapping (Click the image at the head of the article and then choose “Map”.) shows a standard gauge branch line apparently terminating in the hamlet of Lubien, the rubrik kopalnia rudy zelaza (iron ore mine) helpfully identifies the purpose of the branch – or does it?
Click the “Satellite” view button. The standard gauge line terminates in a circular wooded area which could have been an opencast mine, now filled in with the rubbish of Lodz and planted over. There are some buildings to the East of the wood which look industrial. We will come back to this standard gauge line in a minute, but for the moment click “+” once to enlarge the picture and look at the centre of the bottom half. A narrow gauge formation peels of northwards, does a 90 degree turn and heads of to the South West.
Scroll the map by clicking and dragging, and follow the line. It crosses the standard gauge Lodz Kaliska – Kutno line at right angles and shortly afterwards makes a sharp 45 degree turn clockwise and heads due West. Given the proximity of the Lesmierz refinery, there can be little doubt that this was once one of the many feeder lines that mostly saw traffic during the sugar beet season. Follow the formation as far as it goes. It appears to stop in the village of Skromnica, the last 300m now taken over by a farm track.
Leczyca area, 1934 1:300,000 map courtesy WIG archive.
Inzynier sent us a copy of the WIG mapping for the area. It confirmed what we had expected: the Lesmierz sugar beet extended to the West of the standard gauge Kutno – Lodz line. But we had no idea how far the system had once extended!
Now a branch of the standard gauge branch comes into view. This line, substantially engineered with sweeping curves terminates in an airport. Google Maps shows no name or details. Using Wikipedia on the names of the nearest villages elicits no information. Though Poland left the Warsaw Pact some 22 years ago – this place, whatever it is, might as well not exist.
Thanks to Ross, who demonstrated more patience and skill with Google than we did, we now know that the standard gauge line leads to the Leznica Wielka airbase, the home of the 37 Dywizjon Lotnicze (37th Air Squadron).